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Local Crew Teams, Parents Rally Against VHSL Decision

The Virginia High School League this week is reconsidering its decision to drop crew from its list of sanctioned high school sports.

Local Crew Teams, Parents Rally Against VHSL Decision

The Virginia High School League this week is reconsidering its December decision to drop crew from its list of sanctioned school activities—a move that could slow the growth of crew at many high schools, McLean parents say.

Membership in the VHSL comes with a number of benefits for most sports, including catastrophic insurance coverage, transportation funding, other supportive funding and more. VHSL is a private, non-profit organization based in Charlottesville that sets high school sports and activity regulations.

One reason VHSL reportedly has given for their decision is that crew is not a sport in at least half of Virginia schools, according to a letter to crew parents posted on South County High School’s crew page. However, Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association President John White said he wasn’t certain of the reasoning behind VHSL’s decision and could only speculate. A message to VHSL late Monday was not immediately returned; Monday was a federal holiday and VHSL was closed.

VHSL’s executive committee made the decision to eliminate the three sports in early December. The executive committee meeting to reconsider that decision is set for this Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Statewide, more than 3,000 high school students are involved in rowing sports, including many blind and hearing-impaired students who may not be able to participate in other sports.

Fairfax High School offers a varsity coed crew program.

“Some programs may be dropped merely because removal from VHSL sanction indicates rowing is not a valid sport,” White explained.

Parents of those students are engaged in an email and public relations campaign to push VHSL to reverse its December decision, and White said more than 100 parents have sent emails in the past week.

“We have been amazed at the profoundly positive effect rowing has had on the scores of student athletes we have had the pleasure to know,” wrote McLean parents Kathy Oram and Ken Meade in a letter to VHSL. “Like many sports, rowing promotes self-motivation, camaraderie, stamina, and discipline, but in our experience rowing, at the high school level, does so to a higher degree than most other high school sports.”

In Fairfax County Public Schools, crew is a financially self-supporting Virginia High School League co-ed club activity, which means each team’s fundraising efforts here entirely support the team’s costs.

What this means for schools and athletes in Fairfax County is not yet clear.

“Fairfax County has said that they will continue to recognize crew as a high school varsity sport and allow usage of school facilities for practices and recruiting within the school, but other areas of the state (our competition) may not be so lucky. Their teams may have to fold due to lack of school support and the fact that crew will no longer be considered a varsity sport,” according to the South County Crew letter.

Clarification: VHSL does not provide funding directly to support crew activities in Virginia, however some school systems might require VHSL qualification as a precursor to funding certain sports.

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